Published: Fri, November 02, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Asia Bibi Acquitted of Blasphemy: Muslim Protests Begin

Asia Bibi Acquitted of Blasphemy: Muslim Protests Begin

Asia was arrested in 2009 after she took a sip of water from a cup she got for her fellow farm workers.

Insulting Islam's prophet is punishable by death under Pakistani law, and blasphemy accusations stir such emotions that they are nearly impossible to defend against.

However, she has spent the last eight years in jail, much of it in solitary confinement.

They then threatened any judges who would be involved in acquitting Asia Bibi. "I just don't know what to say, I am very happy, I can't believe it".

Blasphemy is a highly inflammatory charge in Muslim-majority Pakistan, where even the slightest whiff of insulting Islam and its Prophet Mohammed can incite vigilante mobs.

It is not the first time the case has sparked violence in the country. The two Muslim women who pressed charges against Bibi denied they quarrelled with her, saying her outbursts against Islam were unprovoked.

Before the verdict, Bibi's lawyer told AP: "I have lost my health. Her family - indeed everyone associated with her - is in danger". As the BBC noted, "The killer, Mumtaz Qadri, was executed, but has become a cult hero with a large shrine dedicated to him on the outskirts of Islamabad".

In his televised speech, Prime Minister Khan warned the Islamists: "Let me make it very clear to you that the state will fulfil its responsibility".

Prime Minister Khan and Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa held a meeting Wednesday night to discuss "the overall situation in the country and other important issues", according to information minister Fawad Chaudhry.

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Some radical groups led by imams have already decreed that they will oppose her release.

FILE - In this November 20, 2010, file photo, Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman, listens to officials at a prison in Sheikhupura near Lahore.

Demonstrations broke out in major cities across Pakistan in the ruling's wake, with club-wielding protesters blocking Islamabad's main highway and barricading roads in Karachi and Lahore.

Pakistani police officers stand guard outside the supreme court in Islamabad, Pakistan, on October 31, 2018.

Religious leaders have denounced the Supreme Court verdict calling it a violation of the country's Constitution and have demanded Asia Bibi's name to be put on the no-fly list so that she can't be sent to any Western country.

"T$3 he prosecution has categorically failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt", read the verdict in the case of Asia Bibi.

The TLP's leadership called for the death of Nasif, the chief justice, and two other judges on the panel. But after a year and more of a prison, she was sentenced to death.

Rights groups say the laws are increasingly exploited by religious extremists as well as ordinary Pakistanis to settle personal scores. Meanwhile, Bibi's husband Ashiq Masih has reached Pakistan along with his family from the United Kingdom to shift her overseas, The News reported quoting sources. "Coutts:-Pakistan-Christians-living-witnesses-of-faith-and-salvation-for-all-45076.html" target="_blank">spoke with AsiaNews about how hard it would be to change Pakistan's blasphemy laws.

In February, Bibi's husband, Ashiq Masih, and one of her daughters met Pope Francis shortly before Rome's ancient Coliseum was lit in red one evening in solidarity with persecuted Christians, and Bibi in particular.

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